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Holiday Party 2009 – An Early Xmas

December 25, 2009

Christmas Day is a day filled with presents, with tables overflowing with food, with family and holiday cheer…

…Well, not quite. Strange as it sounds, my family hasn’t really celebrated Christmas for past ten years or so. No Christmas tree, no gift exchange, no feasts – we just treat it as another day at home. This year was no exception; especially since we spent most of this week in Vegas for a family reunion, today is a day of recovery rather than festivity.

Although today may not be as eventful for me as it is for you, don’t worry – I got my holiday cheer on last week. One of my managers was nice enough to invite us over to his house for a little holiday get together and his wife put together one of the most impressive spreads I’ve seen in a while.

(Gingerbread men and gumdrops – oh my!)

Everything was basically made from scratch, from the crispy wonton skins filled with savory sausage to the perfectly decorated tiramisu cheesecake. The mac and cheese was cheesy, the shrimp were coated in a lick-your-fingers spice rub…There was a lot of good grubbing going on.

So like I said, I already got my holiday cheer this December and I hope all of you are getting yours now too!

Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone!

Le Bernardin (Manhattan, NY) – A Fishing Story

December 17, 2009

Seeing that Le Bernardin is arguably the best seafood restaurant in the nation, it seems fitting to begin this review with a fishing story of my own. Like most stereotyical fishing stories, my story starts with an outrageous claim and ends with no proof that what I claim ever existed…but trust me, it’s true.

I was at Le Bernardin on Saturday night and was *THIS CLOSE!* to…*dramatic pause*…ERIC RIPERT.

Yes, you read that correctly, I SAW ERIC RIPERT. I watched him wander from the bar to the dining room, stopping by and chatting with the patrons at each table. I watched him walk from the dining room to the kitchen, disappearing behind the swinging doors. However, I did NOT see him drop by my table and, by the time I thought of asking to meet the chef, he had left for the night. No picture, no proof…all I have is disappointment and regret for not jumping him when I had the chance.

*sigh*

Luckily, that was my only disappointment that night.

———-

It’s times like these that I absolutely hate my inability to write eloquently. How do I describe my 3-star experience at Le Bernardin beyond “Just…WOW.”? Where do I begin to describe the dishes we were served, how can I convey to you the thoughts that ran through my head with every bite? I can only hope that pictures do more justice than words – there are so many words one can use; I can only use the ones within my reach.

Of the three prix fixe options at Le Bernardin (4-, 7- or 8-courses), my dining companion Jenn and I both ordered the 8-course Chef’s tasting menu, complete with wine pairing. After completing our meal, both of us agreed – the wine pairing was a MUST. Some dishes were amazing with or without the pairing but others were elevated to that next level (to the level one would expect from a restaurant like Le Bernardin) because of that one sip. Highly recommended.

Amouse-Bouche: ?

Unfortunately, I forgot to write down what we were served for the amuse-bouche but it wasn’t a standout dish in any fashion so I’m not sure if it matters. There was something odd about the texture of the dish – it was little mushy and I couldn’t quite figure out if it was from the seafood or from the accompanying puree underneath. The foam (made of mushrooms, if my memory serves me correctly) complemented the other flavors well; however, the texture was still very distracting.

Course 1: Smoked Yellowfin Tuna “Prosciutto”; Japanese Pickled Vegetables and Crispy Kombu (Pairing: Muscadet ‘Clos des Briords’, Pepiere, Loire 2008)

The smooth smokiness of the tuna played well against the crisp sweetness of the Japanese pickles. I admit, I did without the crispy kombu (a type of seaweed typically used in Japanese cooking); it may have added a hint of saltiness to each bite but it was also a battle to break it into pieces.

Course 2: Poached Pastured Egg; Osetra Caviar; Mariniere Broth and English Muffin (Pairing: Krug, Grande Cuvee)

When first looking at the menu, there were three dishes that caught my eye and ultimately resulted in my choosing the Chef’s tasting over the Le Bernardin tasting, this being the first. The egg, perfectly poached, floating in a pool of broth, rich with the flavor of white wine and mussels – it was divine. The dish just asked to be sopped with the two strips of lightly toasted English muffin (and I, of course, gladly obliged, sopping the running yolks and the broth as daintily as I could).

Course 3: Seared Langoustine, Mache, Wild Mushroom Salad; Shaved Foie Gras; White Balsamic Vinaigrette (Pairing: Gewurztraminer, Cantina Tramin, Alto Adige 2007)

The second of my three must haves, this was a prime example of a good dish elevated by an excellent wine pairing. The course, by itself was a solid dish – the langoustine was tender and the there was just enough foie to add a hint of flavor to, but not overwhelm, the other components of the dish. However, the wine brought out the sweetness of the langoustine, creating a very pleasant taste all together.

Course 4: Pan Roasted Monkfish; Hon Shimeji Mushrooms; Turnip – Ginger Emulsion; Sake Broth (Pairing: Chassagne Montrachet, 1er Cru Chenevottes, Bernard Moreau 2006)

Typically, I’m not a huge monkfish fan – I enjoy some of the flakier fishes and monkfish tends to be a bit too dense for me. However, I polished off the fish, along with everything else, in order to taste as much of the sake and miso broth as possible. (Le Bernardin may be known for seafood but their sauces and broths are what really make the dish and compliment the natural flavors of the seafood.)

Course 5: Crispy Black Bass; Braised Celery and Parsnip Custard; Iberico Ham – Green Peppercorn Sauce (Pairing: Rioja, Reserve ‘Vina Ardanza’, La Rioja Alta, Spain 2000)

A psuedo Top Chef groupie (I’m not a true groupie as I missed most of seasons 3-5), I was excited to see a dish featured in the Le Bernardin challenge of season 5. It was suggested that we enjoy the creaminess of the parsnip custard (served separately) in between bites of the bass, a welcome change from the saltiness of the ham and peppercorn sauce and the braised celery.

Course 6: Baked Lobster on a Bed of Truffled Foie Gras Stuffing; Brandy Red Wine Sauce (Pairing: Chateau Haut-Bages Averous, Pauillac Bordeaux 2001)

Lobster with foie and truffles – this could be the definition of luxury. The fattiness of the lobster against the foie was fantastic, although I actually could have done without half the lobster (the portion size was rather large in comparison to the other courses and it just got heavy after a while).

Course 7: Creamy Goat Cheese Spheres, Concord Grape, Candied Walnut, Black Pepper (Pairing: Torrontez Sparkling-Deseado Familia Schroeder, Patagonia Argentina)

The third of the three, this was easily my favorite course of the night. The goat cheese popped in my mouth and mixed in with the sweetness of the walnuts and grape – not quite a sweet and savory but more something perfectly in the middle. With a sip of the paired sparkling wine, I was in heaven.

Course 8: Caramelized Corn Custard, Hazelnut Praline, Brown Butter Ice Cream, Popcorn Tuile (Pairing: Ron Zacapa Rum, Guatemala)

Another not quite sweet, not quite savory but perfectly in between dessert, this was another favorite, partially because of the novelty of the popcorn tuile. At first glance, it appeared to be a simple piece of sugar; however, it tasted exactly like a freshly popped kernel of corn.

———-

…There’s really nothing left to say besides that.

Le Bernardin
155 W 51st St
Manhattan, NY 10019
(212) 554-1515
Website: http://www.le-bernardin.com/

Le Bernardin on Urbanspoon

A Congratulations to Michael Voltaggio!

December 13, 2009

Yes, I know, I’m behind. I know the finale of Top Chef was on Wednesday and that it’s Sunday right now. I know that means I’m four days late with this post.

…I don’t get Bravo at home, okay?!

Anyway, I finally got all caught up with this season’s Top Chef and am very happy with the outcome. I was always sort of rooting for Michael since we met him in person at his Breadbar Hatchi event in July – he seemed like a great guy and his food was an experience to remember. (If you’re wondering if his food tastes as good as it looks on tv, well, it does.) My friends and I asked him about his Top Chef experience at the time and subsequently joked around amongst ourselves how hard it would be if he won the whole thing and had it keep it to himself…

Well, what do you know: He won the whole thing.

So a congratulations to Michael Voltaggio, Season 6 Winner of Top Chef! You’re a cool guy and maybe I’ll see you at the Dining Room at the Langham in the near future!

Gahm Mi Oak (Manhattan, NY) – Sul Lung Tang for the Soul

December 12, 2009

I’m a California girl, born and raised. During my entire 24 years on this earth, I’ve lived in a 30-mile radius of Downtown LA my entire life, growing up under the glow of the California sun.

Cold weather? What’s that?

Well, Day One in NYC was a wake-up call for me. Last night, temperatures dropped to below freezing and I was, to put it simply, REALLY EFFING COLD. (Did you know people actually go outside when it’s 29 degrees out? Can you believe that I ACTUALLY WENT OUTSIDE when it was 29 degrees out?!) I obviously needed something to warm me up. Not only did I need something warm, but I had Korean on my mind.

When I think of hot Korean food, two things come to mind: soondubu (i.e. Korean tofu) and sul lung tang (to be described below). Now I eat soondubu all the freaking time – I’ll have it on a monthly basis, if not more often than that. Sul lung tang, on the other hand, I don’t enjoy as frequently. Thus, I figured it was time to give it another go.

For those who are wondering: “Sul lung tang – what is that?” Well, according to Wikipedia (around which my world revolves), sul lung tang is:

“A Korean soup made from the bones of the four legs of an ox, with the front legs giving better taste. It is typically cooked over a period of several hours to an entire day, to allow the flavor to be gradually extracted from the bones. It has a milky off-white, cloudy appearance and is normally eaten together with rice and several side dishes; the rice may be added directly to the soup. Generally, only salt and welsh onions are used as seasoning. Usually, ground black pepper is served with the dish.”

…And that’s exactly what I got. A big bowl of milky broth (rice already added) and a big ole side of their house-made kimchi and pickled radishes.

The first time I had sul lung tang, I didn’t realize that you had to season the dish to your tastes. I just had a sip or two, thought it was super bland and left disappointed. However, this time I knew better and made sure to thoroughly salt and pepper the soup, as well as add a heaping pile of green onions to my mix. The resulting concoction was a lot more appetizing (to the eye and to the mouth), although it still lacked that depth I was looking for. Fear not, as the lack of depth in the soup was entirely compensated (and then some) by their house-made kimchi.

Oh. My. God. Their kimchi is effing awesome.

I ate the whole plate by myself. I was tempted to ask for more but didn’t want to come off as a fatty (I was eating by myself so none of that “My dining companion *cough* me *cough* would really like some more kimchi!”), so I instead I rationed out little pieces to ensure it lasted until the end.

At the end of my meal, I was full and warm and happy. That was, until I left the restaurant and went back outside…then I was just full and happy.

(Man, NYC is COLD!)

Gahm Mi Oak Restaurant
43 W 32nd St
New York, NY 10001
(212) 695-4113

Gahm Mi Oak on Urbanspoon

LudoBites 3.0 at Royal/T Countdown!

November 29, 2009

It dawned on me today that my ressie at LudoBites is this Thursday.

…Wait, did you hear me? THIS THURSDAY.

Now four days may not seem like a long time but I’m an impatient girl. A very impatient girl. Thus, I will be counting down every minute/hour/day until I get to go back. (I’m also going to post up this pic of us at the last LudoBites with Chef Ludo Lefebvre himself – just ’cause I think it’s cool.)

CAN’T WAIT!

(Side note: A big thanks to Linden of The Gastronomnom for setting this up!)